Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Overcome Emotional Eating

                   What stimulates people to eat in response to their emotions? First step in figuring out the answer to this question is to understand which emotions trigger you to act out by eating. Ask yourself these questions. Do you eat when you are anxious, angry, happy, or upset? Can you sit down watching TV with a bag of chips and eat the whole bag before realizing? Do you eat when you are hungry or because you are bored, or need something to do? Do you eat for social activities or because that’s what other people around you are doing? Emotional eating can be a huge barrier to weight loss by adding the unnecessary calories to your diet, and relying on food for emotional coping.  Next time you sit down to eat, ask yourself are you truly hungry, is your stomach empty, or are you doing this for some other reason?

                 A lot of emotional eating can be stemmed from childhood. Frequently at times we associate food with comfort. When a baby begins to cry we offer them a bottle, when children injure themselves we offer a cookie or a treat, when a child overreacts to calm them we offer them a treat. We have raised children to allow eating as an escape and to be a distraction for their pain and/or problems. Has that carried over as you have grown older, do you still search for the treat or dessert to satisfy you when you feel upset, injured, or alone? I think almost everyone, at some point, has been an emotional eater. Sometimes we think of emotional eating as being a problem people act on when they are upset or dealing with stress. That isn’t always the answer; we also eat when we are happy. We eat to celebrate holidays, birthdays, new jobs, winning activities, and so forth.  The truth is, when emotional eating becomes a major coping mechanism for your emotions is when you have the real problem. Listed below is 10 ways to help overcome emotional eating.

1.     Pay attention to the types of food you’re drawn to when you eat. This will help you determine whether or not you are eating out of hunger or whether you are eating to satisfy a craving.  If you all of a sudden desire a hot fudge sundae then you can easily tell that is to satisfy a craving. Write it down; write down when you ate, what you ate, and how you felt before and after. This will help you determine what types of feelings lead you to the kitchen and what your going to eat as a result of those feelings. Then you figured those things out you can come up with “alternative actions” to help deal with these emotions.

2.     Pay attention to your food. That might seem like an obvious thing, but often times we keep eating and eating until we are so full we want to lie down. When you eat, take the time to just eat. Don’t watch TV, talk on the phone, or be at your computer. Take the time to taste your food and enjoy it. That’s what food is all about, and sometimes we take for granted the ability to taste and enjoy food. Then when you feel comfortably full, stop eating; do not let yourself get stuffed. It takes your brain and stomach almost 20 minutes for the food to tell your body that it is full. If you eat quickly and without thinking you will most likely of eaten more than you needed. Take the time to eat slowly. If you need to use your less dominate hand, or use a smaller utensil to help slow you down then do so. Correspondingly, don’t forget to drink and eat at the same time. Often times, people will go through their whole meal without taking a drink. Drinks will help you feel full faster. Remember, you don’t have to cut out all the foods you love its about portion control, how much of it and how often. If you try to restrict all the foods you love, you will be likely to turn to them in times of emotional eating.

3.     Healthy Coping: When you think of food as emotional ways out, try to ask yourself these questions. Will this food make me feel better or worse after I eat it? Will it make me feel better or worse tomorrow? Will it make me feel better or worse about myself?  There are so many things that you can do today such as eating too much, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, procrastinating, sitting on the couch too much and so forth; that is negative coping. We want to think positive; think about what is going to make you feel good and what is going to improve your day! Whether that is by choosing healthy foods that make you feel good, exercising, or playing a game with your family; its simple. Find what makes you happy and choose what makes you feel healthy.

4.     Conquer the hard times: There will be times where you are having a bad week and you just want to give in and quit. There are times when you want to cheat and eat that bowl of ice cream. There will be times where you loose sight of the goal you want to achieve. Life will always be a constant chaos. The secret to weight loss success is being able to keep a healthy lifestyle even in the midst of chaos. If you gain weight every time life gets stressful, your weight will always go up and down. You have to believe in yourself in times of trials and disorder, fight through the problems and challenges and keep going. The hard times will never get easier, but you will get stronger and be able to handle them. Once you can conquer the hard times you will develop the confidence to reach all of your goals, to do the things you want no matter the difficulties.

5.     Distract yourself: Everyone goes through stressful weeks, whether it’s because of a tough week at work, school, and a fight with your spouse or an all around low mood. Sometimes stressful weeks make it harder for us to eat healthy. When you’re fighting those cravings, but you just cannot do it any longer, try to distract yourself. Find alternatives that will help you overcome those cravings. Distractions can be anything such as calling a friend or family member, going for a run, reading a book, making a craft, and/or playing a game. Do something that you enjoy; it can be a simple activity such as getting on a social media site and getting lost in what is happening.

6.     Exercise Regularly:  Your body will reward you when you exercise. It helps unwind you and forget about those things that are making you stressed. If you are having food temptations that you cannot get over, go exercise. Beth Israel, Deaconess Medical Center in Boston stated that exercise is a great way to deal with food temptation. It helps to strengthen the brain’s powers of executive function, thinking ahead and controlling inhibitions, which makes it easier to say no to a second helping of dessert.2 It is also said that Yoga can help you deal with temptations and be a more mindful eater. It helps create body awareness, reduces the fight or flight emotion you get when you’re stressed out, and it increases your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help you mood.

7.     Get Enough Sleep: It’s very important to take care of your body and one of the biggest ways to do that is by getting enough sleep. When you get enough sleep, it is shown that you reduce your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone that increases when you’re stressed or anxious. It causes an increase in blood sugar, suppresses the immune system and assists in the metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrate.  Dr. Jacobs said, “Not getting enough sleep contributes to depression, irritability, and reduced ability to control stress and anxiety. All of these things will further contribute to vulnerability for emotional eating in at risk individuals.” Along with getting enough sleep, when you sleep, and how long also has an impact. Eating when we should be sleeping may increase the risk of weight gain, as the body is more likely to turn nighttime calories into fat rather than burning them off.

8.     Stop Negative Talk: One of the biggest problems we have is that we have negative self-talk about our self. We often judge our self by our appearance and how we think we should look and that can make us get depressed. The judgments we make about our self can bring us down and make us feel discouraged. We are all guilty of this, just simply stray away from doing it. Each time you say something such as “I’m stupid,” or “You’ll never be that good,” or “You should stop trying,” write it down. Then think, would I say these words to my mom, spouse or friend? Most of the time the response will be no. If you are not willing to say those hurtful words to someone else, then do not say them to yourself.

9.     Healthy Options First: Make it a goal to eat three healthy foods before eating a comfort food. If after that, you still want to eat your comfort food, you can. Most of the time those three healthy options will be enough to satisfy your cravings and you will forget about the other food you wanted. That way you will consciously think about eating something good before you can give into those temptations. You will have more success than just telling yourself no.

10.  Take Away Temptation: The more junk food you buy and leave in your house the more you are going to eat it. It’s as simple as this: do not buy it. You cannot give into those late night cravings if you don’t have it as an option in your house. To go along with that, make sure you go to the store when you are in a good mood, when you are full, or after you have exercised. If you are in a good mood you’re more likely to buy healthier options rather than ones that will be more of a luxury. If you are full, you will have fewer temptations to throw in snacks and high fat options. If you go to the gym and then go buy groceries, you are more likely to buy healthier options because you will be feeling great about your workout and you have more of a satisfying feeling of life.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post so much and could completely relate! I adore your blog and can't wait to see what else you post. I just started following you on GFC!


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